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Establishment of functional synaptic connections in a selective manner is essential for nervous system operation. In mammalian retinas, rod and cone photoreceptors form selective synaptic connections with different classes of bipolar cells (BCs) to propagate light signals. While there has been progress in elucidating rod wiring, molecular mechanisms used by cones to establish functional synapses with BCs have remained unknown. Using an unbiased proteomic strategy in cone-dominant species, we identified the cell-adhesion molecule ELFN2 to be pivotal for the functional wiring of cones with the ON type of BC. It is selectively expressed in cones and transsynaptically recruits the key neurotransmitter receptor mGluR6 in ON-BCs to enable synaptic transmission. Remarkably, ELFN2 in cone terminals functions in synergy with a related adhesion molecule, ELFN1, and their concerted interplay during development specifies selective wiring and transmission of cone signals. These findings identify a synaptic connectivity mechanism of cones and illustrate how interplay between adhesion molecules and postsynaptic transmitter receptors orchestrates functional synaptic specification in a neural circuit.


Yan Cao, Yuchen Wang, Henry A Dunn, Cesare Orlandi, Nicole Shultz, Naomi Kamasawa, David Fitzpatrick, Wei Li, Christina Zeitz, William Hauswirth, Kirill A Martemyanov. Interplay between cell-adhesion molecules governs synaptic wiring of cone photoreceptors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2020 Sep 22;117(38):23914-23924

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PMID: 32879010

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